Mafefe 4×4 Love

Story and photos by Louise de Waal

“You see that Merc parked halfway down the ravine?”, shouts Peterson Phasha over the noise of rocks knocking left, right and centre against the metal of our Landrover Defender, “that’s what happens when you try to drive this road in a sedan”.

We are driving the teeth-shattering Orrie Baragwanath Pass road, which is not only seriously eroded, but also extremely rocky in places. I love my Suzuki Jimny with its wolf-in-sheepskin 4×4 capabilities, but to say I am a hardened off-roader would be a lie. It’s at this point that I am extremely grateful for having Peterson driving his Landie.

The journey to Mafefe Cultural Camp is a true 4×4 adventure, but be warned it’s not for the fainthearted. There are no recovery facilities, no proper route map, and most of the way little or no cell reception.

The scenery however is dramatic and sometimes literally breathtaking. The road winds through the Lekgalameetse Nature Reserve, a birdwatcher’s paradise with rarities such as the Narina Trogon and Cape Parrot and renowned for its abundance and diversity of butterfly. It follows steep valleys covered in lush indigenous forests and the misty conditions give this mountainous wilderness a slightly eerie feel, but magical quality at the same time.

The route takes us through rural villages and past the confluence of the Olifants and Mohlapitsi Rivers, until at the far end of Mafefe village Peterson takes a sudden left. I ask him “where are you going, there is no road?”. He simply answers, “this is the road”.

The final 20 km (or 2 hrs) is a mere mountain path. It’s rocky. It’s steep. It’s badly eroded. It goes through streams. It has clay substrate over long stretches, which, you guessed right, gets extremely slippery when wet, adding an additional layer of complexity.

It goes without saying that solo driving of the Mafefe 4×4 trail is not recommended and it’s only accessible with high ground clearance vehicles with low range 4×4. However, if you are serious about off-roading this is definitely your next adventure.